Snuggled on the sofa with my 15-year-old daughter, we scrolled through her Instagram feed together. 100, 115, 125 “likes” became a theme on each photo and it became clear that she’d found some committed “followers.”
“Wow, Abby, your last picture got 139 likes,” our 11-year-old daughter declared in amazement.
A check in my spirit occurred and I casually questioned our teen daughter, “What would happen if you put up a beautiful picture, but you only got a handful of likes?”
“Well, I would delete it because obviously, it wasn’t that good of a picture.”
Her statement came so matter of fact, so effortlessly. No thought pondered before answering; it was a given. She would edit what others deemed “less than.”
I’ve mulled over that conversation for months.
“Honey, you’d really delete the picture? You know that your worth and value isn’t found in how many people “like” a picture, right?”
“I know. I know, Mom. You tell me that all the time.”
I tell her that all the time, but do I live like I believe it?
I’m raising the next generation of world-changers, yet those very blessings that live under our roof are bombarded with the message of instant gratification and unrealistic comparison.
Their social lives and communication skills are chiseled before the altar of snapchat and Instagram where the mess of life is edited out, only revealing snippets of a photoshopped existence.
Yet every day I tap away in a world that relies heavily on social media: the likes, shares, comments and filtered photos. While I revel in the joy of embracing both the beauty and bedlam of everyday life, I realize that I’m falling prey to the very self-editing I claim to stand against.
Have you thought about this challenging balance?
I want to be authentic and real, but when does that line become blurred?
I struggle with a messy upstairs, but the extent of the mess? You may never know. I’ll just delete that reality online.
Last night’s post by your favorite blogger; the one where her words left you deeply moved, but wondering how she does it time and time again? It took her ten hours to pen those 600 “effortless” words.
Remember that gorgeous recipe that’s been pinned thousands of times? Why is it that when you made it, reality did not meet the original? It took 52 photos, two trips to the grocery store, a $600 camera lens and an hour of photoshop to create that look.
Our editing of life doesn’t just happen online. Understandably, it’s more prominent here, but it sneaks into the fabric of everyday life. In subtle choices; self-editing that we don’t even realize occurs.
It happens when our precious kindergartener comes downstairs showcasing her handpicked outfit, highlighting her creative fashion flair. We smile, pat her head and send her upstairs to change into something that matches. We polish her up just enough to run errands.
It happens when we roll into church, smiles plastered, nodding heads echoing, “Just fine, thank you, and you?” Inside we know our obligatory “fine” doesn’t tell the whole story.
It happens with raising children. While it’s one of the hardest, yet rewarding callings, we photoshop out the discouraging details such as our teenager, raised in a strong Christian home, drinking at a party, or struggling with online addiction or eating disorders, or even cutting themselves as a cry for help; just a few of the many struggles deleted from discussion.
Personally, it happened last week as I spent time with women I admire and appreciate. I found small glimpses of myself self editing so that I would feel more accepted, more popular, more worthy. I second guessed conversations, wondering if I had talked too much, too little, too loud, too openly.
I left our time realizing they rarely see the real me. The real me gets squashed amidst the photoshop process leaving only a hazy image of the original masterpiece God created.
That kind of living leaves me exhausted and empty. It is not who we were created to be.
Collectively, we stand at a pivotal juncture.
We know the truth. I know the truth.
John 8:32 declares, “Then you will know the truth and the truth will set us free.”
If I know this truth that sets us free, I need to live like I believe it and invite others into the mess.
Lean into it! Life to its fullest!
Galations 5: 1 also reminds us, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
This image creation and comparison? This photoshopping of details and editing of life? It is bondage. Slavery. It’s a yoke rubbing against the fullness and freedom which Christ has to offer: abundant living, joy filled living.
On a practical level, I’m still in the process of determining how to balance this continual rub. It’s challenging, but I’ve realized it’s often the pictures, facebook updates or situations I may want to “edit or delete” that hold the truest beauty. The messy, encouraging, life giving kind.
Last week, I brushed off the cobwebs and bared my heart in a Frugal Fashionista meets Psych 101 post.
The shackles of my paralysis began to fall off.
I am streamlining online interaction, re-setting family boundaries with social media free zones and deleting areas that pull me into the comparison trap.
When it whispers, scriptures remind me that His creative process, both online and in real life, is meant to give Life. As I give the Creator full editorial reign, He releases me. In that beautiful life unedited, there’s freedom and joy.
And my daughter’s Instagram comment? It was the catalyst needed for change.
I’m leaning into the imperfectly beautiful moments of life and savoring them all. Won’t you join me?
– Jen, Balancing Beauty and Bedlam
Bev Duncan @ Walking Well With God says
You have so captured what we…what I do to my life…we edit…we delete. I hate that I get caught up in the comparison game. Other writers must be more interesting, more captivating, more “liked”. It’s a nasty game that we easily get sucked into unless we declare the truth in front of the lies…the truth that will set us free. God does not want us living as slaves to what the world thinks of us, He wants us to write, sing, dance, sculpt, work, create to an audience of One. His opinion is the one that truly matters. Often when we live life unedited (when people get to see our flaws) then His strength shines and HE is the one who is glorified, not us. I know this in theory, but thanks for so poignantly capturing this truth this morning. I needed this!!
Jennifer Schmidt says
You are so welcome, Bev.
It’s a constant rub, isn’t it? We know the truth, yet the doubt slips back in and becomes that trap we know isn’t bringing Him Glory. That’s why I am trying to be proactive and identify those areas that bring me there.
Brittnie (A Joy Renewed) says
So needed to hear this!! Our culture is so caught up in the edit/delete phenomenon and goodness. . . the REAL us is hardly ever shown anymore at all. There is such freedom in letting go & giving all the editing responsibilities back over to our Creator. Thank you for this post!
Jennifer Schmidt says
You are so welcome!! Yep, I’ve had enough of it and just embracing those messy areas. Such freedom. 🙂
True words. I too have wrestled with social media lately and feeling very less than compared to others. Trips and pictures with friends stab me right in the heart when I am lonely or feeling left out. Yet, I continue to return for more stabs. Ugh. Thank you for your true words. These words will be pondered and prayed over today.
Jennifer Schmidt says
I’ll be praying with you because loneliness is such a huge part of it as well, isn’t it? I stumble around others updates and find out things that I’m not included on. It’s hard, but since social media is here to stay, I am reeling in my viewing because it’s very true that ignorance is bliss in those situations.
Social media has made the comparison trap such an intertwining aspect of our everyday life. We often don’t even realize we in the midst of constant comparing. I logged off FB the beginning of the summer and my soul has been so refreshed this summer! You know what ….. I have no plans to log back on in the fall!!!
Jennifer Schmidt says
Oh Trista – I bet it’s been refreshing. The last few months I’ve spent less time online and it’s been a balm for my soul. When I hop back, I find myself being pulled right back in, but I want to find some sort of balance. It’s a tricky one, for sure.
Jen ~ yes finding the balance is tricky for sure! Thanks for this great post! May you be blessed today 🙂
This is SO true! Thanks!
This validation issue is huge with guys too. I “caught” my teenage son on my phone the other day using it to “like” his photo to put him over 100! It honestly broke my heart! After some good natured teasing we were able to have a serious conversation about it…..AGAIN!
I encourage folks to read the book “iY Generation” by Tim Elmore. It was quite insightful about the tech generation and it’s influence!
Jennifer Schmidt says
Yes, our 17 year old has done the same thing. It breaks my heart to think of the toddlers and what it will be like when they are teens. So good to be ahead of it in shaping and nurturing their precious hearts.
Stef Layton says
THANK YOU!! My beautiful 17yr old niece spent a week with me. She put a filter and edited all her photos with us. When the natural shots were great – she didn’t or wouldn’t post / tag them. It was all about creating something better than what was being shared. I love her – and I know she had a good time, but I could see just how much we’re living life loud only for others not for HIM.
I am not an editor…
I say it as it is. I reach out to others overwhelmed. I post the good, bad and ugly.
I spend most of my life alone(with my 3 kids: 3,5 & 17) searching for answers, solutions, short-cuts. People look at me and walk away. Is it too much??? Or, just too uncomfortable!! I struggle and I’m not afraid to say it! But wow how others quickly disappear when the topics get real…
Jennifer Schmidt says
We all need more of that honesty because it’s reality, yet for me, I also remind myself of the balance of encouraging others in their journey too. From you writing that you post the good, bad and ugly, it sounds like balance.
We’ve all met people who have no filter and it’s all about them. That’s not bringing Him glory either because in the every day of life, we can acknowledge our struggle, yet still find something beautiful each and every day amidst that, which points to Him.
Glad we’re on the journey together, Kristi.
well written..us too have taught my family to be real in Jesus..never fake and putting on pertending smiles..be real and those of us who do really enjoy life more.we aren’t always putting on the fake side and being so concerned to be perfect. life is better well lived..simply !
Jeanne Takenaka says
Jen, wow what a challenging post. Yes, I self-edit my life far more than I should, and even more than I realize. I try not to edit my kids, but I probably do, all in the name of being deemed, “Enough.”
I’ve been pondering how to “live real” more often. Finding the balance of how much I share in social media and how much is too much. In a group of friends, it’s easier to just stay quiet rather than chime in with some of my own thoughts and struggles because . . . well, I’m less than them for some reason. I know, it’s wrong thinking, but it’s what has felt safe for so long.
Your picture of the yoke rubbing against the freedom and completeness and “enough-ness” God has given me has me thinking. This post really spoke to me. Thank you for being transparent!
Jenn, what a wonderful post. I tend to start getting my ‘jealous-green-eyes’ on after seeing everyone’s perfect holiday pics on fB and Instagram, the summer projects that they have managed to do, the amazing organizational helps they have come up with, all the while balancing kids, and jobs. It starts to make me feel ‘less-than’. What I really need to do is drop the comparisons and focus on Jesus and who he says I am. That I am actually ‘more-than’ I realize in Him. The standards of our world are not the ones that He deems important and I desperately need to remember that. Thanks again for writing.
Susan Shipe says
This topic has been weaving itself through a lot of blogs recently. I believe God is speaking very clearly to His kids. Great post.
Jen @beautyandbedlam.com says
So glad to hear this. One of the things I’ve done for now is streamline my blog reading, so I wasn’t aware of it, but the Holy Spirit must be knocking on many of our hearts. 🙂
Social media comes into our lives, our homes, our heads and our tender hearts…free, but not without a cost.
I saw a PBS Frontline last night called Generation Like. The impact social media is making on the children (hmm, all ages actually) of our world…is staggering, powerful & unsettling. But as Jenn says, it’s here to stay…Oh Lord, help us be loud voices to our youth & our friends…they are “liked” by the One who knows them best and loves them most! Ann Voskamp calls us to be Key People in this world…I’m going to spend the rest of my life opening doors of God’s Truth and Grace! Let’s live real.
Donna R. says
Jen, Thank you so very, very much for taking the time to write this post. I NEEDED IT!! I have read some other blogs recently along the same lines, and you really brought a lot of different thoughts together for me! I have been self-editing in so many areas that I consider myself a failure at everything. Now I can pray, go back and analyze those thoughts. Again, thank you. Donna
Sooo grateful for this today! I’ve had to be in “social media surroundings” a lot lately getting the word out about finishing my God-size project and it’s wearing me out…wearing me DOWN. “On a practical level, I’m still in the process of determining how to balance this continual rub.” This especially resonated with me. Thank you, Jen, for this beautiful & sound reminder that it’s most important to be “liked” by our Creator!!
Loved this post!!! I too am resetting things in my life. So I don’t love edited. Thank you for being a God tool to share this message
Ruthie Lewis says
As a writer myself, I know the editing process, so this hugely resonated with me. Pretense and denial of reality and painting pretty pictures is an issue I’ve actually written a lot about. It was so beautifully said and puts a great new light on the belief that we just aren’t enough.
This post hits so close to home! I’ve kept those 2 verses (John 8:32 and Galatians 5:1) close to my heart for the past few months. Comparison has always been something I struggled with and it’s crept in even more now that social media enters almost every part of my life through Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook. I even fasted from IG and FB because it was bogging down my soul. Those 40 days spent with Jesus brought me more satisfaction than all social media outlets combined could ever do.
I was so in bondage and I did not even realize it until I started a bible study about bondage and how to break free from it. It’s a slow process and I’m not perfect, but knowing who you are in Christ is the first and most important step to freedom. One day I know I will completely free from this through the power of Jesus, but right now I take it all day by day.
God has given me this incredible gift of writing. Some days I am so stricken with fear, I can’t even process or write out a complete sentence because the thought of others seeing my heart stops me dead in my tracks. I write a lot of personal things that have touched my heart to my friends on FB (nothing to personal that I would never share with close friends and family) but sometimes after I type out my thoughts and hit “Share”, I am hit with these extreme fearful and anxious thoughts. Mostly asking myself “what are people going to think of me”. My thoughts that I wrote out will plague me, I process them all night long and often loose sleep over it. “Did I write something that will offend anyone, what if a particular boy reads my status and doesn’t view me the same way, I bet everyone things I’m so WEIRD”.
The silly thing is, often the posts or stories that scare me to my core to write and share end up being the things that people are touched by the most and send this overwhelming encouragement through comments or likes or shares my way. I then think to myself, what do I have to fear? Nothing! God is the only one I should fear and I know these fearful thoughts are not of God. They are of Satan and his deceiving attempts to distract us from making the art we are supposed to create.
Gosh. This was such a good gut-check for me. Like so many of you, I hate for others to see that I don’t actually “have it all put together.” Edit, edit, edit. Even for those close to me… but yes, it is so exhausting. Our vulnerability allows others to open their worlds to us as well. Thanks so much for this gentle and sweet reminder to live authentically.
Jen, this is my first visit to your blog and I love what you said! It is so easy for me to get caught in that loop in your head. (All written without edit) 🙂
have a young girl too and other children..our goal in our Christian lives daily is live simple lives..be real and be true Jesus followers..nothing else matters .I have taught my children to never put on anything fake..say it like it is and the world may like it or not but life is life and we have to be real in it. how else can we shine Jesus light if we are wrapped up in ourselves and putting on our fake smiles and saying all the right things at the right time.
Kristen K says
Love this post and the sentiments described! And (as a proud Furman alum)- I love the Furman shirt! 🙂
Jonah's Wife says
I love your writing! This is a beautifully written account of our modern “like” seeking society. Your words are so true. Like you I had a revelation that God wants me to live transparently for His glory. It has been a freeing experience. Thanks for sharing this.
Debra @ MsMoozys Open House says
Great post and like the other said, this is something that is making itself known in blogs all around the internet. Will be keeping this in the back of my mind for sure and really work on that balance that is so hard to find.
Thanks so much for the encouragement and gentle reminder. Have a great weekend. 🙂
Beautifully said- thank you! We’re raising our 4 girls overseas so our struggles are often different and our girls are sometimes a bit behind the curve when it comes to keeping up with mainstream stuff (as in my 2 teenagers are both on Facebook but I have no idea what snapchat is and neither do they!). But it’s still such a reality and I find myself struggling to maintain the balance between staying connected to family and friends via social media and being so connected that I don’t fully focused on where God has physically placed our family. Thanks for addressing this issue head on!
Gosh, it’s so nice to hear this with such a dose of introspection. I’m a little less nuanced myself. Exhaustion with all of the perfection has just pushed this imperfectionist across to the other side — in me, fatigue with the whole silly thing has just produced apathy toward perfection. Once you realize it’s impossible, it’s easier to shrug and say “who cares, anyway?”. (You are more thoughtful and precise about this, thank you). It wasn’t conscious, but I’ve found it very freeing. Also, I find I enjoy all of the online perfection more now, because I recognize it for the impossible eye candy that it is.
I’m still working on my teenaged daughters, who don’t remember life “before”. It’s a harder lesson for them. The exasperated “I know, Mom” and eye roll are both things I am familiar with. 🙂
Beth Williams says
I’m not that caught up in the “social media” comparison trap. Don’t twitter, or tweet & have no idea what snapchat is. I am the person God made me to be–imperfect, flawed, but loved by God!!! When it gets down to it I want to really know people. I want deep conversations about what’s going on in your life. DO NOT EDIT & SAY that your just “FINE”. I care about you and want to pray for and encourage you!
NO EDITING DONE HERE!! You get the real me!
I absolutely LOVE your black or navy blue tee you are wearing in the picture. Can you let us know where you got it???
Too much “friending”, too much “liking”, been off FB for about a month; I think I’m liking it.
I’ve experienced the adult version of self editing but honestly because my kids are still younger I haven’t thought much in the perspective of our young adults & teens. Your post is eye opening for sure…thank you.
christi in ma says
Thanks for posting this! It’s a great eye opener. We always are much more concerned with how we think people will see us instead of focusing on being ourselves.
Earlier this year I was following an young 20s upstart blogger. She posted once that she couldn’t ever post a photo of her having ice cream or hanging out on the couch. I was floored that she believed she could only share herself to her “followers” as defined by her blog’s narrow “POV”. She chooses to hide her reality so we all think she only ever eats those veggies that are artfully swirled on vintage china. I unsubscribed from her blog that day. I liked her recipes but I didn’t like the focus on trying to keep up with the cool kids and maybe get a cookbook deal, a feature in a magazine or a Food Network show someday.
Coincidentally I read this post right after looking at ‘bring your lunch to work’ ideas on IG. While I was looking at those photos I thought, this food doesn’t look that good. There were leftovers, hastily-made sandwiches, globs of stuff I didn’t know what was. After reading your post I realized, those are real lunches, real food, and sometimes real food doesn’t photograph well. But these people were providing ideas for lunches to save money AND it does taste good. It’s just not the pin-worthy best photo out of 600 takes with perfect lighting. I need to learn to accept reality the way it is just like you said in your article. Thank you for this post.
susan maclean says
Forgive a little interrupton here from an “over the pond-er” (UK) with no children. I loved your post even though I am an atheist, and I respect your faith. But facebook friends (who they?), twitter followers, etc…. none of this is real life, it’s like living in an electronic scrapbook! But I do understand that those with children who have grown up with this, and believe this is real life, have a difficult path to tread. Yes, I have my own blog, but it’s just for me, really, glad if someone reads a post but you don’t have to. No, I have no facebook page, my real friends can contact me by phone, or email. No I don’t do twitter! Why would I want to know that someone is just “popping to the supermart for food”……. Bless you in your attempt to ensure your children understand what is real life and what is not. x